HONG KONG: Asian markets struggled Tuesday while the dollar resumed its downward shift, with the focus turning to the Federal Reserve’s latest gathering this week.
While it is not expected to bring any change in interest rates, the Fed meeting will be pored over by traders hoping for some clues about future increases and the Fed’s timetable for winding down its bond holdings.
The meeting is a key part of a standout week for US-watchers. It ends Wednesday and second-quarter economic data is released Friday, while big-name firms are at the height of their reporting season.
Thrown into the mix is the ongoing drama surrounding Donald Trump’s administration, with his son-in-law and top adviser Jared Kushner giving testimony Monday denying collusion with Russia to sway the November presidential election.
“The high level of trepidation continues to weigh on market sentiment as congressional hearing of White House advisors all but guarantees some headline risk and a possible escalation of the Russia-gate bluster,” said Stephen Innes, head of Asia-Pacific trading at OANDA.
“Risk sentiment is indecisive due to the political commotion in Washington, but with so much dollar risk to roll out including (the Fed meeting and growth data) amidst a busy week for US corporate earnings, investors have been reluctant participants so far this week — showing a minimal appetite for markets in general.”
Equities markets moved in and out of the red through the day. Tokyo stocks ended down 0.1 percent while Hong Kong closed marginally higher, after rising for 10 of the previous 11 trading days.
Shanghai gave up 0.2 percent but Sydney rose 0.7 percent and Singapore gained 0.4 percent. Seoul slipped 0.5 percent and Taipei was flat.
India’s stock markets racked up fresh records, with the National Stock Exchange’s much-watched Nifty index breaking the 10,000 point mark for the first time as traders take heart from economic reforms.
The Nifty, which consists of 50 of India’s top companies, rose 0.5 percent shortly after opening. The Bombay Stock Exchange’s Sensex index extended its golden run, rising 0.4 percent, also an all-time high as Indian equities enjoy a months-long rally.
US traders provided a limp lead, with the Dow and S&P 500 in New York both ending in the red.
On currency markets the dollar turned lower again after enjoying a rare day in the sun Monday, when the euro succumbed to profit-taking after hitting a near two-year high of $1.1684.
In afternoon Asian trade the single currency was at $1.1664.
The dollar has come under pressure from the euro on concerns about the future of Trump’s economic agenda, a series of weak US data — which have raised questions about future rate rises — and expectations the European Central Bank is about to start tightening policy.
However, Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at AxiTrader, said in a note: “My sense is the dollar’s weakness has now more than fully priced disappointment with the economic data, outlook, and impact on the Fed’s tightening and balance sheet adjustment process.
“This suggests there is a reasonable chance we might see a reversal” in the US dollar.
In early European trade London rose 0.3 percent, Paris added 0.1 percent and Frankfurt put on 0.2 percent.